Flint, Michigan area urban agriculture report – May 21, 2014
Cooler weather in the past week along with less rainfall allowed for tilling and planting in urban and semi-rural, small scale diversified farm fields. Summer crops and transplants intended for the field are growing well in urban and rural hoop-houses.
According to the Michigan State University Enviro-weather station in Flint, Michigan, temperatures for the past week ranged from lows of 35.1 degrees Fahrenheit last Friday morning, May 16, to a high of 77.1 F yesterday, May 20. We are at 262 growing degree days (GDD) base 50, which is 100 GDD behind last year’s reading. Our season continues to run four to seven days behind normal. The rainfall total for the year is 9.15 inches and we received just over an inch of that rainfall in this past week. Several dry days in the past week allowed for field work in well-drained fields.
According to research done at the MSU hoop-houses at the Student Organic Farm, summer crops and transplants for field plantings are growing in area hoop-houses, and the remaining cool-season crops are being harvested. Growers are keeping hoop-houses as open as possible to allow for maximum airflow and watering minimally in the morning to avoid wet plants at night, which would increase the risk for disease development during our wet spring.
Tomatoes and peppers have their first few buds and transplanted cucumbers are looking good. Other tasks in the hoop-house include staking peppers and tying up, or trellising, tomatoes on overhead strings, which maximizes space efficiency. On one farm, seeds of winter and summer squash, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, short season Brussels sprouts, cabbages and salad greens are being planting this week for transplants in the field next month. This grower has more success with transplants of certain crops in the field versus direct seeding because of the expense of organic seed and the variability of germination under field conditions.
In the field, onions, leeks, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, chard, raab, collards, spinach, lettuce and mustard greens have been planted. Sweet potato slips are going into the field with plastic over low hoops for cold weather protection. Peas in the tunnel and field are growing well; radishes, beets and brassica braising mix are up in the field. Growers are planning to get fields for pumpkins and sweet corn worked up this week if the rain holds off.
Flea beetles and cabbage moths continue to appear on crops in the cabbage family in the field. One grower using organic growing practices will try dipping the new cabbage family transplants in a kaolin clay crop protectant before planting them in the field to protect the plants from insect activity.
Going to market now
According to a Michigan State University Extension food systems educator, growers are harvesting radish, Napa cabbage, Pac choi, salad greens, scallions, cilantro, parsley, spinach, Swiss chard and kale this week out of area urban hoop-houses and low tunnels. From the field, chives, lemon balm, garlic chives, oregano, lovage, anise hyssop, thyme, parsley, sorrel and green garlic are being harvested.
Last week the edible flint network distributed 300 vegetable garden kits, including 10 types of transplants and 18 types of seeds, to community gardeners, residents and small scale producers as part of their Garden Starters program. The Garden Starter Program is part of edible flint’s strategy to increase Flint’s capacity to produce healthy food. Through the sharing of knowledge and providing training, technical assistance and garden resources, edible flint is helping Flint residents grow food gardens in the city.